The publishers say that this life of St. Catherine Laboure by Father Dirvin will be the definitive biography of St. Catherine. Like many other people, I suppose, I have never been quite certain of the meaning of this word as it is applied to a biography. So I asked the publishers what they mean when they say that Father Dirvin’s book is definitive. Here is their explanation.
This book is the full and authoritative story on the life and works of St. Catherine, the Daughter of Charity to whom the Miraculous Medal was manifested by the Blessed Virgin in Paris in 1830. It contains much material never published before, since Father Dirvin had access to archives and places never before opened to a biographer or a historian. These were not only in Paris, but also in Rome and in the village of Fain-les-moutiers, where Catherine was born and spent her childhood. Every statement of fact has been fully authenticated; where evidence on any point is not fully conclusive, this is clearly indicated. In this book you will read everything significant that is recorded anywhere about St. Catherine and her life’s work.
How Father Dirvin was able to obtain so much previously unpublished material can easily be understood by those who know of the long and close association of the Vincentian Fathers with the Miraculous Medal. For those who may not know, a brief explanation should suffice.
St. Vincent de Paul founded two Communities: 1) the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers) and 2) the Daughters of Charity, sometimes called the Sisters of Charity. At the time Mary manifested the design of the Medal of her Immaculate Conception, Catherine Laboure was a novice in the Paris motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity. When the first Medals were cast two years later, it was only natural that they should be distributed by the spiritual sons and daughters of St. Vincent—first in France, and then throughout the world.
The first organized effort to spread devotion to Mary through her Medal was made in the United States, in 1915, by the Vincentian Fathers of Germantown, Philadelphia. Prompted by a desire to show our appreciation for a wonderful favor received through the Medal, the superiors of our Community decided to establish an association to promote devotion to Mary Immaculate. This was the beginning of The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal. For eleven years prior to his transfer to St. John’s University, Brooklyn, Father Dirvin was on the office staff of the “Central Association” and was associate editor of our magazine, The Miraculous Medal.
I hope that all this talk about definitive editions and scholarly research will not mislead anyone into thinking that Father Dirvin’s book is a dry compilation of facts. Far from it! Here is a narrative that brings Catherine Laboure to vivid life—as a child; as the little housekeeper in a motherless household; as a girl seeking her vocation; as the young novice chosen by Mary to give her Medal of grace to the world; as the humble Sister who insisted on remaining anonymous almost to the end. This is a book you will find very hard to lay aside until you have read the final sentence on the last page.
Rev. Joseph A. Skelly, C.M., Director
The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal
Germantown, Philadelphia, Pa.
Feast of the Assumption, 1958
The author of any book is indebted to many people. It is impossible for him to thank them all publicly, but certain ones, whom he leaned upon heavily, cannot be passed over. My biggest debt of gratitude is to Father Joseph A. Skelly, C.M., who believed in the book from the first and was prodigal in giving me access to original sources. I am grateful to my confreres, who helped me by their encouragement, advice, and knowledge, especially to our Most Honored Father, William M. Slattery, Superior General of the Vincentian Fathers and the Sisters of Charity, and to Fathers William J. Casey, John J. Munday, and Joseph J. Symes. I am grateful also to my religious Sisters, especially Sister Mary Basil, Assistant General of the Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters Custodians of the Archives at Rue du Bac. Nor can I forget the kindness of M. l’Abbe Rochet, cure of the parish in which St. Catherine lived, and of Mme. Laboure-Gontard LeGrange, of Nuits St. Georges in Burgundy, a great grandniece of the saint. Special thanks are due Prof. William A. McBrien, of the Department of English of St. John’s University, New York, for not counting the cost of time and labor in his careful and critical reading of the manuscript.
List of Proper Names found in the text.
Affre, Aimee, Aladel, Albigensian, Alexandre, Alphonse, Alphonsus, Andre, Andredes, Andreveux, Annales, Antoine, Antoinette, Appolline, Archconfraternity, Ars, Athanasius, Auguste, Augustine, Avila, Bac, Baptiste, Barrois, Baudrey, Belloc, Berchmans, Beune, Bismarck, Bisqueyburu, Blanchot, Bonaparte, Borghese, Boulainvilliers, Boulet, Bourdonnais, Bourgoin, Brittany, Buglose, Bussieres, C.M., Cantal, Cany, Capharnaum, Carleton, Castelsarrasin, Cavaignac, Cerf, Chandenier, Chantal, Charite, Charlemagne, Chartres, Charvier, Chatillon-sur-Seine, Chinchon, Claude, Claudine, Clovis, Coeur, Coliseum, Concorde, Cormarin, Cosnard, Cosnards, Darboy, Darlin, Dax, Defriche-Desgenette, Desgenette, Desmoulins, Devos, Dijon, Dirvin, Dufes, Dufour, Duhamel, Ehrle, Emmitsburg, Enghien, Etienne, Eugene, Fain-les-moutiers, Fatima, Fenimore, Ferronnays, Fouquet, Francis, Franco, Francois, Francoise, Frayssinous, Frederic, Froc, Gabriel, Genevieve, Gerlier, Germantown, Gesu, Gillet, Gontard, Gontards, Grapien, Greve, Gruyer, Guilbert, Guillou, Gustave, Hachette, Henri, Henriot, Hieropolis, Higginson, Hilaire, Hinaut, Hong Kong, Hubert, Hugo, Hyacinthe, Irving, Isaiah, Jacques, Jeanrot, Josephine, Juiverie, Justine, Karl, LaSalette, Laboure, Lackawanna, Lacordaire, Lamarck, Lamartine, Lamartinie, Lammenais, Langres, Lazare, LeCerf, LeGrange, Levacher, Ligouri, Lisieux, Loire, Londres, Loreto, Lorette, Lourdes, Lucien, Lyon, MacMahon, Maggiore, Mailly, Malcap, Malines, Mamer, Marceau, Mariette, Marseilles, Martha, Marx, Masella, Masonic, Mauche, Maurel, McBrien, Mediatrix, Memorare, Memorares, Mettavent, Meugniot, Misermont, Mongibello, Montaigne-Ste, Montbard, Montdidier, Montmartre, Mozart, Munday, Naples, Nicolas, Nicolo, Nimes, Noire, Nozo, Nuits, Ojetti, Omer, Orfevres, Orleans, Otto, Ozanam, Paganini, Palermo, Paray-le-monial, Patrizi, Payne, Perboyre, Pereire, PetitPont, Philadelphia, Philippe, Pierre, Pinot, Pius, Positivists, Pradt, Prost, Proudhon, Prussia, Pyrenees, Quelen, Ratagunde, Ratisbonne, Redemptorist, Remy, Rendu, Rene, Reuilly, Rheims, Roch, Rouchechouart, Rouquette, Skelly, Salhorgne, Saul, Sauveur, Sejole, Senailly, Sibour, Siena, Sion, Skelly, Slattery, Soubirous, Soucial, St.-Thomas-d’Aquin, Strasbourg, Symes, Tanguy, Ternes, Therese, Thomas, Tobie, Tonine, Troyes, Tuilleries, Vachette, Valliere, Vanutelli, Vatican, Verdier, Versailles, Vianney, Victoire, Vieux-Colombier, Villeforte, Villette, Vincennes, Vincentian, Vizerny, Wilhelm, Zoe, d’Arc, d’Enghien, du, l’Echiquier.